Lebanese authorities have said at least 78 people have been killed and some 4,000 wounded in a massive explosion at the port in the capital, Beirut. The explosion on Tuesday sent shockwaves across the city, causing widespread damage even on the outskirts of the capital. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear.
Officials linked the explosion to some 2,700 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were being stored in a warehouse at the port for six years. Officials said they expected the death toll to rise further after Tuesday’s blast as emergency workers dug through rubble to rescue people and remove the dead.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared. Aoun said that it was “unacceptable” that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse for six years without safety measures, according to statements published on the presidency’s Twitter account.
He also pledged that those responsible would face the “harshest punishments” and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared. An investigation committee has been tasked to say who was responsible for the blast within five days.
The families of victims will be paid compensation. Import traffic will be routed to the Tripoli port in northern Lebanon.